This article is part of our 2019 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from 2019.
It’s hard to be certain of much as we come to the close of 2019, but we are pretty certain that you’re about to skip to the last page of this list to find what many will say later was an obvious choice for number one. That’s entirely fine and we’ll even give you a hint: read this for a great longform explanation of our top choice.
That said, in between here and the end to which you’ll inevitably skip are 49 other movies that, for our team here at Film School Rejects, One Perfect Shot, and Nonfics, show off a fairly diverse selection of the best films released in North America in 2019. At the least, these are 50 movies that we very much enjoyed. In fact, to even make this list, a movie had to have someone on our team who was ready to fight for its place. And that matters to us, as we spend the rest of the year scouring the world for great movies, hoping to share the best and most interesting with you through our work on this site. The end of the year is an opportunity to take stock, to fight for what we love, and to give you something that you can use: a list of 50 movies worth seeing if you want to get a taste of what was good in 2019.
For those of you who aren’t skipping to the end, we salute you. Enjoy our list of the 50 Best Movies of 2019.
The film opens on a shot of an upturned corpse having its eye ripped from its socket by a raven. As the jelly pulls free and a stream of puss flows down the knight’s cheek, we hear Al Swearengen, not Professor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane), announce the setting, “The year is 517 AD, known as the Dark Ages and for fucking good reason.” This is not Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. This is not Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy. If you love either of those iterations than the Neil Marshall variety could be seen as offensive. What we get here is a crass, gross, and profane celebration of monsters where the lead character is a demon taught by humans to punch other demons. Hey, maybe that’s not cool. Maybe these demons have a right to life like HB does? The film makes time for the thought, which sputters up from the comics, but only for a minute or two, cuz then it’s time to get back to smashing monsters. Hellboy 2019 is the best Conan the Barbarian knock-off movie Roger Corman never produced. This is Deathstalker with a budget. This is Barbarian Queen with legit performers. I understand that the film is not for everyone, but it infuriates me that my fellow Beastmaster-bros are not championing Neil Marshall’s incredible monster-mash achievement. Guys! The final moments of the film are a Hieronymous Bosch come to life with hell-born titans wearing humans as shishkabob socks! You bet your ass you would have stolen this movie from Erol’s video back in the day…or begged your mom to rent it, promising an extra afternoon of chores in return. (Brad Gullickson)
49. Dark Waters
While there hasn’t been overwhelming hype for celebrated director Todd Haynes’s latest movie Dark Waters, it is a masterful drama that should not be forgotten this year. Mark Ruffalo brings to life the story of a man burdened with the truth that he cannot fix the damage done to a small town in West Virginia but has the drive to do whatever he can. This important story may be forgotten in the eyes of many outside of Appalachia, but it is a devastating look at what is hidden from us by those in power. (Emily Kubincanek)
48. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Cinestate has garnered a reputation for making movies about tough guys doing questionable things. S. Craig Zahler’s three directorial efforts are arguably the most popular films to be produced by the studio so far, but this airtight single-location thriller from Henry Dunham is one of the studio’s best. The story revolves around a group of militiamen who learn that one of their own members is guilty of shooting up a police funeral. What follows is an interrogation process within an isolated lumber mill, as the group tries to flush out the guilty party before the cops arrive and finish them all off.
Most viewers will disagree with the characters’ ideology, and the film doesn’t set out to endorse or condemn them. But there’s an authenticity to these alpha males that makes them compelling, and as the situation unfolds, their vulnerabilities are exposed. At its core, Standoff At Sparrow Creek is about lost people whose insecurities have led to them becoming self-destructive. The film is also packed with so much tension and suspense that it feels palpable, and Dunham manages to accomplish this with little action. Intense character interactions make for some uncomfortable moments, and it all leads to a twist that you won’t see coming. (Kieran Fisher)
47. For Sama
Syrian activist filmmaker Waad al-Kateab created (with collaborator Edward Watts) one of the most powerful works of journalist art of the year. For Sama is a love letter from the director to her young daughter — hence the title — as well as to her country and specifically the city of Aleppo, its people, and her husband, an activist doctor. Through her elegiac narration, which is directed at Sama, Waad al-Kateab shares the story of how she and Hamza al-Kateab were friends who fell in love and had a child on the verge of war. The handheld, nonlinear film has a feeling of immediacy and is filled with harrowing moments as it chronicles a personal perspective on the bombing of Aleppo all the while suggesting the greatest casualty, more than even the innocent women and children, is collectively and physically this place, their homeland. For Sama can be a challenging work, not just in that it’s often hard to watch for obvious reasons but also in our question of the Kateabs decision to keep Sama in Syria when they could have easily removed her from the danger as they stayed behind to heroically report on the war and save what other lives they can. It’s the kind of art that can trigger conflict within yourself as your heart and your brain may react in opposition to each other. (Christopher Campbell)
46. Little Monsters
“Shake It Off” should probably not play such a prominent role in another film again for a long time, but writer-director Abe Forsythe and star Lupita Nyong’o somehow manage to turn it into a pitch-perfect accompaniment to this story of a school field trip caught in a zombie outbreak. It’s campy. It’s charming. It’s the bloodiest romantic comedy you’ll find. It’s a touch formulaic, but that’s not a bad thing. Little Monsters combines the tropes of its many genres to redefine what both horror movies and romcoms can and maybe should be.
Lupita Nyong’o turned out three of this year’s best performances, but, between Little Monsters and Us, the former went largely ignored. That’s a tremendous shame because her zombie-killing kindergarten teacher was one of the most memorable characters of 2019. Josh Gad and Alexander England are phenomenal in supporting roles, but the most endearing aspect of the entire film is its band of child stars. Forsythe deserves some credit for the dialogue he gives them, running the gambit from hilarious to tear-jerking, but they provide the film with the electric energy it needs to succeed. It’s weird, wonderful, and available to stream now. (Cyrus Cohen)